Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

I couldn't resist!! The ponies got apples and carrots for their Thanksgiving breakfast but then I had to hop on Fleck and go for a quick ride. And it was quick... less than 2 minutes. During which I dropped my phone and then my hat! Hee hee. Poor guy. He was not thrilled about it. 

I am so blessed to have such wonderful ponies in my life. God has been so kind to give me three "lifers". Roany was such a fun girl who gave me so much confidence. Fleck.... oh Fleck.. the love of my life, my soul horse, and my friend. I'm so lucky to have him. And I thank God every day for bringing him into my life and keeping him in my life. That horse means the world to me. And now Dan.... the little hooligan. I love him to pieces and I hope that he and I can develop the same bond that Fleck and I have. 

Happy Thanksgiving to all. We are so very blessed!

Jump Lesson

Phew... I needed that! It was a good lesson though. Beth said my new leg position was good! I really think just slightly pushing my butt back in the saddle makes a big difference. It just puts my leg slightly in front of me, allowing me to close my leg at the girth and keep my heels down. It also keeps me from pitching my shoulders forward and thus pinching and pivoting at the knee. Yay! Of course my legs are sore now. It's a slightly different feel so I'm having to use slightly different muscles.

But yep... our lesson was good. We started out pretty well and Beth told me to focus on his shoulder. She said that 70% of our issue right now was me losing his shoulder. Especially on cross country. The faster he goes, the more obvious it becomes. So she told me to NOT correct it by just counter bending him. I laughed and said that I had been riding with her too long - she knew all my tricks! So... then how do I fix it?! Sitting down in the tack, sitting him on his hiney and using the outside rein to keep him straight. So we started and I had some really beautiful jumps! Like "WOW!" jumps. He rocked back on his butt and the canter was just there. 

Then she set up all the fences and had me do a course. Egads!! We started fine over the first one and then it just went all downhill. I think I was more just hanging out, along for the ride, because it wasn't horrible, but we kept getting to this awkward distance and he was taking these really long spots. And I would get left behind and then we'd scramble and my reins were too long to then collect him back to his hind end for the next fence. We got around clean but with much grunting and heaving and eeks. Beth said that I wasn't sitting him on his butt and I was letting him lengthen to the fence. Aha! That's why I was getting to that funky distance... I wouldn't, but because I let him lengthen, we'd end up there. 

So then I sat up and rode better. Not just alternating rein half halts without getting any response... but I sat up and rode. He jumped the first oxer fine and then kinda wimped over the first of the second slightly long line. I landed and gunned him so that we made the 4 and then he sat up and paid attention. Then I rode his shoulder, but kept his jaw supple (thinking DRESSAGE IT!) and viola! It worked! He didn't lengthen and we had some lovely fences. 

Few! We quit with that. I was tired! It was a LOT of work riding that way. Yep... I remember that. I need to ride hard at prelim. Ride like Boyd or Buck and get it done! This isn't the hunter ring. :) And by ride hard, I mean that I need to ride every stride.... whether that's realizing all is well and just closing my leg or realizing I'm losing a shoulder or just keeping him rocked back on his hiney... I need to not just float around. 

So yep... hoping we're ready for pine top this weekend. It came up rather quickly. Eeeks!!! At least we're only doing P/T. Hopefully we can survive. I'm glad Beth jacked the fences up though because it was a little bit "eeeks, they're big again!". 

I went ahead and clipped Fleck again too. And his butt is pink!!! Like he'll need suntan lotion if he's not in his clothes pink. Hee hee... He has some lines too but oh well. He was too furry for pine top. 

Doing our homework

So life has been a little crazy! Despite the fact that I'm working less, apparently I've had less time to ride too. But I'm being a good wife and Mike and I are having fun hiking. And the weather hasn't been as cooperative. But look! See! I'm riding even when it's super cold. :)

We have been doing our long and deep warm ups with lots of direction. And I hope it's helping. It seems to be. Then we went out to ride late one cool night and I decided to try jumping a hair to see if sliding my butt back makes it easier for my leg to behave. And I think it does!!! Of course I really need a jump lesson as Fleck was feisty and when I did that, my leg started to behave but then didn't. I think it'll work but I definitely need to strengthen some different muscles. But we jumped the trakehner a few times in prep for Full Gallop too. :)
Brrr... it was cold and I had forgotten my quarter sheet. So I grabbed a fleece blanket. It didn't stay on very well but we tried. Fleck was happy as clam grazing though, regardless of how cold it was. But I was cold, so we headed back in pretty quickly.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Dressage: another tactic

Interesting...I had a dressage lesson with Kelly Eaton today, who I've always liked. It was good. Really good. But it was a very different approach from my lesson with Julie. I think I can use both to my advantage.

Today Kelly had me focus on riding Fleck much deeper. Not long and low, because she wanted more connection, but deep. Not rolkur, not that deep! Not at all. Just deep enough that he uses his belly. Kelly noted that Fleck kind of cheats. He gets in a nice "frame" but doesn't actually come through with the connection. He's not tracking up behind with that hind end. She also noticed that he doesn't step under himself with his right hind.

So.... she had us start at the walk. She wanted me to get him deep. And she explained that this was for my warm up. We don't want him sucked back, but round and with his ears pointing the way, rather than pointing up a little (ie.. his poll will be lower, not the highest point) for now, but not forever. We will get him there to get him to use his belly and back and then after he warms up and is using himself, we will allow him to go back "up" to the proper frame, but by then he'll be using himself. Aha! So to do that I keep my elbows at my side, keep a firm/heavy connection (one that almost allows him to hang on the bit), and push him into it with my legs and seat. And Kelly liked him more forward. He was more through when he was a bit more forward. Not running!! But forward. And I need more bend.

I think I've gotten to where I'm riding the horse I had back then, not the horse I have now. I'm anticipating him bulging out with that shoulder and trying to keep him more upright, so I'm not allowing him to bend and almost forcing him to have a slight counter bend. Sigh... So yep, I had to really allow the bend. And it's not really an exaggeration at all. But because I've been so freaky about it, *I* feel like it's an overbend. Sigh. Kelly told me to watch his neck. The under muscles should disappear and the muscles at the top of his neck (more dorsal) need to be bulging. And, I can look at the base of his neck, at the withers, and watch for the jiggle. It was a good visual for me. Kelly wants me to do lots of that deep work, with lots of changing directions to help get him supple.

So then we moved on to the trot. More forward!!! And keep it forward. Same exact principles. Fleck needed to stay deep and I really needed to almost get an overbend. When tracking to the right, I needed to soften with my outside rein and remember to keep the connection on the right rein. Only twice in the entire lesson did Fleck bulge out with that left shoulder. And I could actually feel it. So, I need to stop guarding him from doing it and actually waiting until he does it. MORE BEND!! And keep it forward. Kelly said to give him a good 15 minutes or so of this deep trot and direction changes to get him supple and soft and using his back. And he even started stepping under with his right hind.

So then we worked on the canter. It was the exact same ride as the trot. Egads!! Fleck was pretty good going to the left. In fact, it was quite nice. But going right was so hard!!! I tried to sit on my right seat bone and lengthen my right leg. And it finally took me having to let go practically with the left rein to allow the bend. I really had to almost ask for an overbend to the inside. And at first, it took right bend, left bend, right bend, left bend. And deep. So we finally got it.
And side note. To ask for the canter from the walk I need to ask when his inside shoulder comes forward. And I need to think of sending my hips in front of my elbows. Almost feel like I'm getting left behind at a jump.

So then we worked on allowing him to come back up and slowing down the tempo a hair to get the ideal connection. Now I was allowed to wiggle my fingers a bit to get him to soften and use my halfhalts. And we got some nice work. Definitely nice trot work, but some good sitting canters. Yay!

So then we finished with our trot to walk transitions. I did lots of trot, think walk, then trot on to keep the front feet moving. After doing that a few times, our downwards where we stayed at the walk were good and through.

So yep.... lots of good work, but it was exhausting. :) I think that if I can get Fleck using his back and through by doing this, and then allow him to come up and go in a less deep but still through frame, then he will be going very nicely. And in the meantime, I can still incorporate all of Julie's suggestions into my rides too. :)

Saturday, November 15, 2014

XC schooling at Chatt Hills

I ended up working all day Thursday so Fleck got the day off. And Friday we went to Chatt Hills to school XC with Beth. It was COLD!! But Fleck loves the cold. He was all ready to go and bouncy. I tried to warm him up like a proper horse and not a giraffe. We did okay. It was better than usual but not as great as it could have been. And then we started jumping. Fleck was on fire. He was dragging me over stuff and so excited to be jumping. They didn't have hardly any prelim stuff set up but plenty of fun training stuff. We jumped over the novice lines to warm up and then the training line over behind the ditch of death. They had the big prelim brush fence up so we jumped that. He did awesome. So then Beth made me jump the ditch. Luckily (or unluckily) they had moved the ditch and wall and the giant table off the ditch, so it was just a ditch. A giant honkin' ditch, but just a ditch. Beth told us to come to it at the trot. Well, Fleck was still fired up so evertime I tried to trot to it, he kept picking up the canter. So finally I got him trotting and as soon as he realized where I was taking him.... He slammed on the brakes!! DOh! There was lots of zig zagging and brakes. I managed to walk him up to it and get him to stand for a minute. And take a breath. So then we trotted up to it again and he was leery, but he went over it after taking a peak. So we came back from the other side and again he was zigging and zagging and stopped. So we let him look again and then he trotted over it. We ended up doing it about 8 times and neither of us never really breathed and were good with it, but we did it. And I had to really close that left leg and then the right leg. Argh... son of a gun. We planned to come back to it. 
We moved on to the other stuff and we got some good jumps. But Fleck was a doofus and threw his shoulder out and bulged towards his friends, but did jump the half coffin. So Beth said that I needed to anticipate it and almost ride a square corner to get his shoulder straight. And I think that I probably need to ride him forward more too to get him going forward rather than sideways. I was able to get him over the fences because they were small, but if it had been a bigger prelim fence, I don't know that I would have been able to. So I came to it again and counter bent him and rode his shoulder more square and he was better. Then we worked on the banks and he was awesome. I was much better with my body up and down. :) Then we did another half coffin. This time I decided to try to push my seat back a hair to help get my leg in front of me more and help keep me more secure in the tack. It seemed to help but I had to shorten my stirrups. And then I had to figure out how to get my leg on. Gracious! But it did help make it easier to ride his shoulders a bit more. We then jumped a table and Fleck climbed it. Not sure why/what happened, but we came back around and I balanced him better and he jumped it well. And then ripped off a front shoe. Doh!! He was still game so we went through the water 3 times and called it a day. Beth had me do the training line which was a cabin then a few steps into the water, through the water on a bent line, up the bank and three strides to a fairly big steeplechase brush fence. THe first time through was a bit lacking. It was like at Ashland, were I veered instead of riding two straight lines. The second time through I nailed it. It was great!!! Then she had us finish by jumping down the drop and doing the line through the water. He leapt off the bank like a big boy and then jumped beautifully through the line in and out of the water. yay!!! 
Go us!! So, lots of fun. And he was sound walking back home, so hopefully we'll get his shoe back on soon and he'll be good to go again. 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Julie Lessons

Fun Day! Peri and I hauled up to Julie's farm for lessons. I rode Fleck twice. We started with a flat lesson. And WOW!!!! Fleck gave me the most amazing canter depart and then the most amazing canter. It was awesome. But first... we started at the walk. We worked on keeping him supple. No more inverting or being silly just because. He's a big boy now and he can put on his big boy panties and behave. :) So to help keep him soft and supple, I had to "row the boat". In other words, Julie wanted me to keep the connection with his mouth but be elastic in my elbows and shoulders. I kept wanting to alternate my hands rather than follow him with both elbows in the same rhythm. It was like trying to pat your head and rub your stomach at the same time only the opposite of what would be normal for most people. :) Egads... And then I needed to close my legs evenly on his sides, gently gripping, as if he had a small leak. No bouncing my heels on his side every few steps. That created too much static. Then I could gently squeeze him into the connection and then lengthen the reins. That allowed his head to bob gently. Duh!! I remember Cindy telling me this. (Ugh, why do I keep going in circles with my riding).
So then we moved onto the trot. Same thing. Only now I needed to really think about rowing the boat. And watching the mane, keeping it on the outside quarter line. And to do that, I had to make sure that I wasn't crossing my inside hand medially over his neck. I had to focus on riding with my legs and seat. I really end up not sitting on my right seat bone at all. Even when I dropped my left stirrup, I still had most of my weight in that left side. So I need to really sit on my right seat bone and to lengthen my right leg. Thinking of lengthening my leg didn't really do it for me. I end up pulling my leg up but by thinking lengthening it, nothing was really accomplished. BUT... if I thought of lengthening my leg by dropping my right seat bone and lengthening my leg, it worked. At least for a few seconds til it crept up again. Sigh. But by doing that I wasn't collapsing in my core too. And shockingly, once I did that, Fleck got off my right leg and bent around it. Aha!! It really helped to ride his withers with my upper leg - not pinching with my knee, but pushing him with my upper leg and lower leg. For the downward transitions, Julie had me envision pinching the beach ball with my knees to tell him about the transition coming and then using my core. I also had to post MUCH slower and smaller. I don't know if I have always been posting that fast and Fleck is catching up to me, or if I was catching up to him, but regardless, we are both WAY too fast. By slowing it down and getting him supple and bending, he could move in a nice ground covering trot rather than his mincy choppy pony trot.  

 And then we did a few back to back transitions, and then a transition to the canter, but by trotting, then walking, then trotting and thinking walk, but instead asking for the canter. The first time Fleck and I were both a little shocked at how nice the upward was and he bucked around a bit. So the second time, we were both ready and WOW!! The sun shone down and a rainbow appeared and birds sang. ;) It was glorious. He was rocked back on his haunches and the transition came from his hind end. He was up in the wither and stayed up in the wither and had this lovely upper level canter. And he could keep it. It was effortless too. I didn't have to squeeze the daylights out of him or cluck or kick. I just sat and rode the rhythm. Glorious!! Even Peri gasped and was excited for me. :) The right lead wasn't quite as nice but it was still a good canter. After that we worked on the stretchy trot and keeping him slow and in a good rhythm. Then it was time for a quick break and watch Peri and then we would jump.

So, despite thinking about rowing the boat and such, Fleck and I were hot messes in the warm up for our jump lesson. Sigh... He was inverted and distracted and I just let him be that way. So Julie yelled at me a bit and told me to not forget the flatwork. Yield him out into the outside rein. Row the boat. Use my voice and tell him "eeechhh" when he's not focusing. He's an awesome horse, so he needs to act like it. And that means behaving. So it took a minute but we got him settled. Okay, so a few minutes. Julie told me to just breathe and focus on my flatwork and not get so riled up. So then we were allowed to jump. ;) She had set up a cool grid. Basically a small vertical to a bounce pole to a small vertical to a bounce pole to a small vertical. BUT... it was on an arc. She said it was 6', 9' and 12' apart (from each pole/jump to the next so the shorter side of the arc was 6', the middle was 9' and the largest arc was the 12'). Fleck bounced on through like it was nothing, though it felt uglier than it looked. So then she set it up a hair and when I really thought about collecting him (Cavaletti, Cavaletti, Cavaletti!) it was easier. And didn't feel as icky. So then we carried on to a vertical. And then back to the grid again. So then she wanted us to do a few fences in a row. She said to just keep coming and going back and forth over whatever. The fences included a weird oxer made up of a skinny vertical and then a regular vertical, the round top, a bounce grid, and another vertical or two. She had us keep coming and keep coming and keep coming. I managed to do okay. My leg got weak and I had a hard time yielding him into my left rein. I really had to think about kicking my inside leg forward a bit and sinking my right seat bone down. But argh.. it's a lot to think about. We managed a fairly decent few jumps though. And Fleck never looked at anything. Even the crazy oxer thing. He took all sorts of different spots - long spots, tight spots, and a really really long spot! I'm happy with my lesson but still frustrated at myself. I know it's a process, but it seems like it's taking forever. At least Flecky is awesome :)

Late night fun

Take me!!!!! Take me this time!!
ha ha. I guess Flecky was feeling left out that he didn't get to go to Barlyn. :) So we loaded up and headed to the horse park for a nice ride.

We had a good time and finished just as the sun was setting. He cracks me up though. He was extra spooky today because he could hear a lot of the golfers but not quite see them. And so he kept wanting to go different directions than where I was aiming. We finally got back to the steeplechase field and he was wanting to go back out, away from the trailer. Goof! Either his sense of direction is as bad as mine, or he just really wants to keep playing. But we did get back to the trailer in time to enjoy the sunset.